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Sure Start Children's Centres

Sure Start brings together childcare, early education, health and family-support services for families with children under 5 years old.

Sure Start is the Government’s programme to deliver the best start in life for every child by bringing together early education, childcare, health and family support.

The Early Years, Extended Schools and Special Needs Group, within the DCSF, is responsible for delivering Sure Start.

Sure Start covers a wide range of programmes, both universal and those targeted on particular local areas or disadvantaged groups within England.

Responsibility for early education and childcare issues lies with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Integrated Early Years services

For some time the DCSF has been encouraging the delivery of childcare alongside early education and other health and family services.

Sure Start Children’s Centres

Sure Start Children’s Centres are building on existing successful initiatives like Sure Start local programmes, neighbourhood nurseries and early-excellence centres, and bringing high-quality integrated Early Years services to the heart of communities.

By 2010, there will be 3500 children's centres, so that every family has easy access to high-quality integrated services in their community and the benefits of Sure Start can be felt nationwide. For more information see the 'Children’s centres' section.

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill includes four clauses giving Sure Start Children’s Centres a statutory legal basis and introducing a duty for Ofsted to inspect centres. Subject to Parliamentary Approval, the legislation could come into force as early as January 2010.
This briefing note explains the main requirements of the legislation for local authorities, children centres and key partners. The legislation is based on current good practice and existing DCSF guidance, and major changes will not result. Nonetheless local authorities, their statutory partners and children’s centres need to be ready to meet the proposed requirements, should the legislation be enacted. 

Early education

All 3- and 4-year-olds are now guaranteed a free, part-time (12½ hours per week, 38 weeks per year), early-education place. There are over 37,000 settings delivering free, Government-funded, early education in the maintained, private, voluntary and independent sectors.

For more information on raising the quality of learning and development opportunities for children, and giving children the best possible start to their learning journey, see the Early Years Foundation Stage. This replaces the Birth to Three Matters Framework and Foundation Stage.


At the end of March 2009, the stock of registered childcare places recorded by Ofsted stood at over 1.5 million (more than double the 1997 level).

There will be a childcare place for all children aged between 3 and 14, between 8am and 6pm each weekday by 2010, when there will be over 2 million sustainable childcare places for children up to 14. For more information, see 'Extended schools'.

Event handbooks

The Children in Need event handbook (November 2009) is the latest in a series of handbooks produced by the DCSF aimed at helping Sure Start Children's Centres leaders generate publicity for their centres in local media. This handbook aims to help inspire ideas for local events and support your efforts to promote your centre and the services you offer within the local community.

Associated documents

Download the contents of this page: docas a Word Document

Last updated on 03/11/2009